Police officers injured, vehicles set on fire in violent protest in Bristol, England

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BRISTOL, England (Reuters) – Two police officers were seriously injured and at least two police vehicles were set on fire in the city of Bristol, in south-west England, during violent scenes after a peaceful protest, announced the police.

Thousands of protesters had converged on the city center, ignoring COVID-19 restrictions, to protest a government bill submitted to parliament that would give police new powers to restrict street protests

Local force, Avon and Somerset Police, said the protest began peacefully but was then turned into a violent mess by a small minority.

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Home Secretary Priti Patel, Home Secretary, said on Twitter that the scenes in Bristol were unacceptable.

“The brutality and disorder of a minority will never be tolerated,” she said. “Our policemen are putting themselves in danger to protect us all. My thoughts tonight are with the injured policemen.”

Two policemen were taken to hospital, one with a broken arm and another with broken ribs, while others suffered violence and verbal abuse. The exterior of a downtown police station was vandalized.

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Avon and Somerset Police said they had asked for help from neighboring forces in bringing the situation under control.

“All those involved in this criminal behavior will be identified and brought to justice. There will be significant consequences for behavior like this,” Will White, chief superintendent of Avon and Somerset, said in a statement.

A Reuters photographer at the scene saw protesters launching fireworks at police officers, attempting to run over a police van, scaling the exterior wall of a police station and spraying graffiti on it.

He also saw police, some in full riot gear, use batons and shields in an attempt to repel protesters.

Some protesters carried placards with slogans such as “Kill Bill”, “The Day Democracy Became Dictatorship” and “We Cannot Be Silenced That Easily”.

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The government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would give the police new powers to place time and noise limits on street protests.

This angered activists, especially since a brutal police response to a London vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard on March 13 sparked widespread outrage and criticism from police.

A policeman on duty has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Everard, and the case has sparked a wave of grief and rage over the issue of violence against women and girls.

The government’s bill predates the Everard affair and covers a wide range of policy areas as well as policing protests. However, the two bonded in the minds of many because, coincidentally, the bill was debated in Parliament two days after the London vigil.

Reporting by Peter Cziborra in Bristol and Estelle Shirbon in London; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Daniel Wallis

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